Sunday, July 05, 2009

On Liberty

Something to ponder on the 233rd anniversary of the founding of the Republic:

"Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought."

- The British historian Lord Acton

Most would define freedom as the ability to do what he wants. That understanding is venal and incomplete.

A contribution from the late Henry Hyde:

Democracy is an ongoing moral experiment in a people's capacity to govern themselves. And only a certain kind of people can be self-governing: People who have been formed by a life-affirming culture; people who are not, in the depth of their souls, utter pragmatists; people who do not worship false gods; people who are inwardly self-governing in terms of their appetites and aspirations; people who cherish goods worth cherishing and honor heroes worth honoring.

When the Founders staked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the American democratic experiment, they did not think that free government was inevitable, only that it was possible. And the Founders believed that its possibility depended on a certain kind of people: a people who knew that freedom, rightly understood, is not a matter of doing whatever we like, but of having the right to do what we ought. Freedom and virtue were inseparable, in their minds, and that meant that the house of freedom must rest on the foundation of a life-affirming culture.

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